The relationship between humans and their oral microflora begins shortly after birth and lasts a lifetime. Up until fairly recently, the associations between the host and oral bacteria were considered in terms of a multiplicity of single species interactions. However, it is becoming more apparent that the oral microbes comprise a complex community, and that oral health or disease depends on the interface between the host and the microbial community as a whole. Although it is important to continue studies of the pathogenic properties of specific microbes, these are relevant only in the context of the properties of the community within which they reside. Understanding the microbial communities that drive sickness or health is a key to combating human oral diseases.